I didn’t realise when I blogged last month about the skills deficit in Tajikistan that this would become the first in a rather sad series of stories about educational deficit. The first post was followed by a story from the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, and today it’s the turn of American funded website Central Asia Online to report on undergraduate education in the country.
Nadin Bahrom’s story goes for a more positive spin but I’m afraid I don’t share the optimism. It’s not something to be proud of, surely, when a university cites its expulsion rate as a sign of increasingly quality? (NB: Tajik Medical University’s hit rate is nothing compared to Liberia, where every single one of the 25,000 University of Liberia candidates failed this year’s entrance examination…)
Also, this is the first I’ve heard of an ‘oversight agency’ to check for cheating in universities: presumably it’s government-run, in which case, who’s monitoring the agency against the bribery and corruption that we know is embedded in public administration??
Anyway, here’s the story, all (c) Central Asia Online:
Tajikistan strives to improve undergraduate education
By Nadin Bahrom
(c) Central Asia Online, http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/main/2013/09/18/feature-01DUSHANBE – Tajikistan is moving to improve its undergraduates’ preparation for the job market after graduation.Education fell to a very poor standard during the 1992-1997 civil war and has not yet recovered, Education Ministry spokesman Makhmudkhon Shoyev said.
“The unrest … meant that our compatriots did not have the opportunity for a decent education in schools and universities,” he said. “But they still received diplomas.”
Tajik university graduates are repeatedly proving unfit for many jobs despite graduating, he said.
For example, over the past two years, the mayor’s office has struggled to find qualified candidates to fill vacancies, Shafkat Saidov, the mayoral spokesman, said.
“Our unfortunate experience has shown that people with degrees from other countries or from the Soviet days are far more qualified and are much more knowledgeable than those who have received degrees since the country became independent [in 1991],” he said. “We have some good job opportunities but, more often than not, no one to fill them.”
University graduates from other Russian-speaking countries appeal more to Tajik employers because they tend to have more work experience, Russian-Tajik Slavonic University Deputy Rector Rahmon Ulmasov said.
Steps to improve education
Authorities are aware of the problem and are working to fix the system’s flaws, Shoyev said.
“Every university has set up a department to monitor exams [to prevent cheating],” he said, adding that an “oversight agency regularly inspects the universities”. Schools are upgrading their equipment and also are providing more opportunities for students to undertake practical training.
Reports so far are positive and indicate “the level of knowledge and academic performance of [university] students are increasing”, Shoyev said. Schools also are stiffening requirements for admission and retention.
Tajik Medical University raised its standards, Shoyev said, noting that it expelled 116 students in the first six months of this year for various academic shortcomings, 29 more than in the first half of last year.
The country needs to transform its education system, journalist and commentator Jhongir Bobev said, arguing that the government needs to eradicate corruption from higher education.
“Then educated young people will enter our universities instead of going to study abroad,” he said.
Tajiks also need to pay better attention to the labour market, education watcher Azim Baezoyev said.
Students from developed countries learn what skills and knowledge they will need and then obtain them, he said. “We need to do better in addressing this part of the problem” because Tajiks have to be absolutely qualified to prevail in the stiff competition for jobs in Tajikistan, he said.
University graduates of the past few years have been an improvement over their predecessors, Shoyev said, adding that authorities were considering enabling those who have been out of school longer to upgrade their skills.
“The current generation is much smarter and more aware,” he added. “International academic competitions prove that the number of talented and praiseworthy Tajik students is increasing. It is encouraging that they come not only from elite academic schools but also from public high schools.”
In 2012, 263 Tajik schoolchildren returned from international contests with 132 medals (21 of them gold), a 15% increase from the previous year, the Education Ministry said.
Parents devote more attention to their children’s education than they did before, Shoyev noted.
“There are many difficulties and problems, but the Ministry of Education is working on solving them,” Shoyev said. “This is not a matter that can be resolved in one or two days.”